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Former CBC "HNIC" Producer Ralph Mellanby "has helped organize a group of investors that may buy" the NHL Panthers (see THE DAILY, 1/17), according to Charles Elmore of the PALM BEACH POST, who notes that Mellanby is the father of Panthers captain Scott Mellanby. The elder Mellanby, on negotiations with the team: "We've been working on it for about three weeks. (Team President) Bill Torrey and I are old friends. He put us on to the Boca Resorts people. Yes, we're interested. I can't say much more because of confidentiality agreements." Torrey said that he will "report the group's interest to" Boca Resorts Chair & Panthers Owner Wayne Huizenga today. Elmore notes that the team's asking price, previously estimated at $150-175M, "is believed to have dropped" to $140M "or lower." Mellanby "will recommend the group keep" Torrey as President. The group is "also said to be considering other purchases, including an Internet company and a wireless firm." Mellanby "declined to say whether any among the group have experience with sports ownership" (PALM BEACH POST, 1/18).
NBA: USA TODAY's Mike Dodd writes on declining attendance at Hornets games in a Sports Cover Story. Dodd: "The Hornets transformation from one of the [NBA's] jewels to a troubled franchise is as curious as it was precipitous." There are "many theories" on the empty seats. Some "point to the clash between the region's conservative values and the legal problems of Hornets personnel." Hornets co-Owner Ray Wooldridge, on the dwindling attendance figures: "What's hanging over the entire environment is the uncertainty of whether we are staying or not [in Charlotte] because the arena deal just cannot be conclude" (USA TODAY, 1/18)....In Seattle, Les Carpenter reports that The Ackerley Group stock "has continued to climb" since the sale of the Sonics last Thursday, closing yesterday at 13.87, 4.43 points above the pre-sale close (SEA. TIMES, 1/18)....Mavs Owner Mark Cuban, who has been critical of NBA officiating, on his new approach with referees: "All along, I should have been saying, 'How can we get these guys raises?' From now on, that's what I'm saying. 'How do we best reward the guys who call a perfect game?'" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 1/18).
NFL: In N.Y., Paul Schwartz reports that Ravens Owner Art Modell owns the most Giants season tickets than any other individual, with 90 (N.Y. POST, 1/18)....USA TODAY's Larry Weisman reports that Vikings Owner Red McCombs "has been denying reports he plans to make" WR Cris Carter a part-owner of the team (USA TODAY, 1/18).
CO-based Booth Creek Ski Holdings Chair George Gillett "has surfaced as one of the bidders" for the Canadiens and Molson Centre, according to Blair & Houston of the Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, who write that Gillett "has looked into purchasing" the team and arena from Molson Breweries, and has "shown interest in" the NHL Panthers. But Gillett spokesperson Pat Peeples said, "Mr. Gillett's business is a private, family business and he doesn't comment on his business dealings" (Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 1/18). The CP adds Molson "vehemently denied reports [yesterday] that an unidentified American group signed a letter of intent to purchase" the Canadiens and the arena. Molson spokesperson John Paul Macdonald called the report "just pure speculation" and added, "There won't be anything to announce for the next few days. Discussions are continuing" (CP, 1/18). Meanwhile, in Toronto, Lance Hornby cites an NHL source as saying that Capitals/Lincoln Holdings partner Jonathan Ledecky "definitely is not purchasing the team after backing out before Christmas" (TORONTO SUN, 1/18). In Montreal, Jack Todd writes that "one bit of media speculation yesterday mentioned" Rupert Murdoch as a potential suitor for the team/arena (GAZETTE, 1/18).